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Dr. Jaewon Ryu, President and CEO of Geisinger

Danville, Pa. – Geisinger has seen a slight uptick in positive COVID-19 tests across their system, according to Dr. Jaewon Ryu, President and Chief Executive Officer. Geisinger’s system includes the flagship hospital in Danville, as well as campuses in Jersey Shore in Lycoming County, Scranton in Lackawanna County, and Wilke-Barre in Luzerne County.

“We’re averaging 25 positive cases per day through test results. Three to four weeks ago it was 16 per day,” Ryu said during a press conference on Friday.

Ryu emphasized the need for continued mitigation efforts on the public’s part. This includes social distancing, hand washing, and masking. “It doesn’t look like the virus is going away any time soon,” Ryu said.

The latest round of COVID-19 cases across the country seem to come from young adults. Many of them think it’s a disease for older folks or those who have chronic diseases, Ryu said. However, Ryu pointed out that the rise in cases in western Pennsylvania include a 40 percent hospitalization rate of people age 40 and younger. “Even young folks can get Covid and it can be very, very serious,” Ryu said.

Masking is one of the most important preventative steps people can take, according to Ryu. “It severely decreases transmission,” Ryu said.

With schools hoping to reopen this fall, Geisinger has been a part of discussions on health and safety plans. The health system is in active discussions with more than 40 different school districts and universities, Ryu said. Each school building has unique dimensions that may present different challenges or opportunities for social distancing.

He also emphasized the importance of wearing masks in schools and hand washing. “We know that children have less of a risk for severe infections but at the same time can transfer the virus.” Both children and staff at schools need to wear masks to make the environment safer. Parents also need to be role models and wear the masks. He compared the masking situation to when seat belts were first introduced. Wearing a seat belt every time people got into the car took some getting used to. “You can have your child practice wearing masks at home before they go back to school,” Ryu said.

Geisinger’s Danville campus had one case of a child with multi-symptom inflammatory disease back in June. “We haven’t seen another case of that since then,” Ryu said. The disease is caused by the same coronavirus infection that causes COVID-19. The body’s immune system response to it mimics Kawasaki Disease, Ryu said.

Geisinger has been keeping an eye on more than 100 vaccine efforts worldwide. There’s currently a handful in the United States that is proceeding to phase three clinical trials, Ryu said. However, it will take time to find one that works. In testing vaccines, we need to find out which ones spark the immune system and how long the effect lasts. “In the meantime, we have to keep up mitigation,” Ryu said.